DISCLAIMER: They're not mine, I promise to put them back where I found them. No money made, no infringement intended.
NOTE: In my little world that team split thing never happened. Special credits go to Sasha, for allowing me to play with her idea and incorporate it into this story. A big thank you to my beta Krys for all her help. Quoted lyrics in chapter 28 written by William Blake, the ones in chapter 33 written by Hermann Hesse.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Strong Enough
By Karen


Chapter 11

"Mom? Are you okay?" Lindsey asked looking at her mother who had been unusually quiet ever since they got in the car.

"Hum? Yes baby, I'm okay." Catherine told her keeping her eyes on the road.

"You're awfully quiet. It's not like you." Lindsey pointed out.

"I was just thinking…" Catherine muttered, not finishing her thought out loud, '…about how good it felt to wake up in Sara's arms. I can't believe I slept in her arms…'

Not caring much for elusiveness, Lindsey pressed on, "Hard day at work?"

Stopping at the red light Catherine turned around in her seat, taking a look at her daughter. She smiled, "I guess…" Watching Lindsey's brow furrow slightly, she already dreaded the conversation she knew they needed to have soon.

"So, how was your day?" She asked, focusing on driving again.

Lindsey could tell her mother was deliberately changing the subject but decided it could wait till they got home, "Okay. I think I did pretty well on that chemistry exam we talked about."

"Yeah? That's great." Catherine smiled, "I guess Greg really did help you study the other day, huh?"

"I told you, mom. We were applying your mascara after that."

"Well… Sorry. It was hard to tell." Chuckling, Catherine pulled in her driveway. Turning around again she asked, "How about pizza?"

Lindsey's eyes widened slightly, "Really? It's a bit too soon to celebrate. We're not getting the results till next week."

"I thought you said you did well." Catherine couldn't resist teasing her daughter a bit.

"I said I think I did. Surprises are possible…" Lindsey mumbled.

"Well then… We'll have to blame Greg. Come on." Exiting the car Catherine went to unlock their front door, followed by her daughter eyeing her suspiciously.

"What's going on, mom?" Lindsey finally asked once they were seated at the kitchen table and waiting for their food to arrive. Her mother hadn't stopped fidgeting nervously in her chair and Lindsey had a feeling she'll have to drag it out of her.

Looking up into her daughter's eyes Catherine bit her lip. Sighing deeply, she gently started, "Baby, it's okay. I just had a bad day at work… Sometimes, no matter how much we try, we just can't…"

"Catch the bad guys?" Lindsey asked. Watching her daughter's big blue eyes fill with concern, Catherine nodded. She couldn't bring herself to mention to Lindsey that her father's case had been reopened, knowing it would take a miracle to close it properly this time.

"Was anyone hurt?" Lindsey suddenly asked, surprising her mother. "You look really sad." She added more quietly.

Catherine merely nodded again, feeling a lump forming in her throat. She noticed her hands were shaking so she hid them under the table. "I think I've hurt Sara today." She found herself saying. Lindsey stayed quiet so Catherine went on, "I didn't mean to. But things got a little out of hand… and I think I've said some things I really shouldn't have." She took a deep breath to calm herself and chanced a glance at her daughter.

Lindsey seemed deep in thought before she finally asked, "But you've apologized, right?" She watched her mother blink away the tears while nodding and silently mouthing "yes". Catherine looked away, hating herself for upsetting her daughter. They've reached an agreement on talking more and promised to be completely honest with each other about their feelings, so now she was trying to honor that promise while struggling not to break down in front of her child.

"You don't think she has forgiven you?" Lindsey inquired softly.

Gulping, Catherine nodded again, "I think she has." She tried smiling slightly before adding, "I just don't think I've managed to forgive myself yet." She looked up just in time to see her daughter climbing off the chair and moving closer. Opening her arms Catherine wrapped Lindsey in a hug.

"Well you need to do that soon. I don't like seeing you unhappy." Lindsey mumbled against her mother's shoulder, bringing more tears to Catherine's eyes. The memory of Sara's misery crushing her heart once more, she closed her eyes shut, praying she'd be able to help her get through the pain. If only Sara would let her.

Enjoying the closeness and the fact her daughter hadn't pulled away from her yet, Catherine gently kissed the top of her head. "Thank you, baby." She whispered, "I really needed that hug."

"Well you can get one anytime." Lindsey solemnly told her, hoping to cheer her mom up a little.

"Promise?" Catherine smiled, a mischievous glint in her eye, "Anywhere, anytime?" She chuckled holding Lindsey more tightly.

Tensing a little, Lindsey asked worriedly, "What are you up to?"

"Uh…" Catherine snuggled even closer, smiling widely, her tone teasing, "You think you'd survive if I were to give you a nice little smootchy in the middle of the mall?"

Pulling away from her mother and staring at her in shock while Catherine wiggled her eyebrows at her, Lindsey asked all terrified, "You're kidding, right??"

"God…" Collapsing in a fit of giggles, Catherine gazed at her daughter adoringly, "I love you, Lindsey."

"I love you too, mom. No smootchies at the mall, please."

Cleaning the dishes once they've finished eating, Catherine almost jumped when her phone rang. Hoping it wasn't Grissom, or even worse, Nancy canceling on her again, she hurried to answer it.

"Willow's residence."


Not expecting Sara's voice she nearly dropped the cordless, "Sara? What's wrong?" The panic quickly rising, Catherine was already grabbing for her car keys when Sara's words made her come to a halt.

"Nothing, I'm okay. I… I just wanted to thank you for staying with me today." Sara's voice sounded soft.

"Oh, Sara…" Catherine managed to relax a bit, "You don't have to thank me."

"But I do. It meant a lot, so… Thank you." Sara said, grateful Catherine couldn't see her blush.

"You're welcome, Sara." Catherine leaned against her kitchen counter, "How are you feeling?"

"All right, I guess. I was actually thinking about coming to work tonight." Sara admitted, fully expecting Catherine's protests. She wasn't disappointed.

"Sara. I… Don't you think it might be too soon? You could use some time off right now." Catherine tried.

"I'm way too restless to actually get rest right now."


"I know, you must think I'm not thinking straight, but at least I can do some good at work. There's no point in staying home, nothing will change." Not getting a response from Catherine, Sara added, "I need to work."

Not knowing what to say Catherine suddenly caught sight of Lindsey watching her worriedly from the living room. "All right, Sara. I guess you know best." She sighed reaching out her arm. Once Lindsey approached her, Catherine pulled her close.

"I'm here for you, Sara. You do know that, don't you?" Catherine asked.

"I do." Sara whispered, adding even more quietly, "Thank you, Catherine."

The line went dead. Sighing again, she kissed Lindsey's forehead and placed the cordless on the counter behind her.

"Are you all set to go your aunt's? Homework done?" Catherine asked, brushing the hair from Lindsey's face.

"Yes. What's wrong with Sara, mom?"

"She's all right, baby." Catherine could only hope that was the truth.

"You looked upset for a moment there…" Lindsey pressed on.

"I got a little worried but she's all right. I promise." Bright blue eyes still staring at her, expecting more of an explanation, Catherine hurried to change the subject, "Come on baby, we should get going. Go get dressed."

Waiting for Lindsey to leave the room, Catherine dialed Grissom's number, "Gil? It's Catherine. Sara just called me saying she'll be coming to work tonight."

"Yes," He sighed, "She called me too. I couldn't persuade her to stay at home."

"I'm worried, Gil. I don't think you should be sending her out in the field."

"I won't be, if I'll be able to help it. Did you get to talk to her earlier?" Grissom asked.

"Kind of." Trying to avoid answering, Catherine grimaced knowing she'll never get away with it.

"Well, you either did or you didn't."

Sighing deeply, she only said, "I'm not comfortable talking about that."

"Should I get worried?" Grissom sounded slightly irritated.

"About Sara, yes. Not whether or what we may have talked about."

"I swear Catherine, this riddling thing doesn't become you."

"Patience, Gil. I'm learning." Hearing her daughter's approaching footsteps, Catherine added, "See you soon."

"Bye Catherine."


Chapter 12

Walking into the break room Catherine's eyes fell on a slender figure sitting in the farthest corner, nursing a cup of coffee. Catherine poured herself a cup and carefully approached the woman so lost in thought she hadn't even noticed Catherine moving about. Sitting beside Sara, she took note of the dark circles under her eyes, realizing Sara probably hadn't gotten any more sleep after she had left.

"Hey…" Catherine greeted softly once Sara turned to look at her.

"Hey Cath." Taking a sip of the warm liquid, Sara noticed the blonde's slight discomfort and wondered if she was causing it.

"Been here long?" Catherine asked after a while.

"No. Just got here." Meeting Catherine's eyes Sara asked, "You think Grissom told the guys why I left early?"

"I don't think so." Catherine watched Sara avert her eyes to the floor. She gently touched Sara's arm, fingers stroking slowly, "Gil wouldn't do that. He'd respect your privacy."

Sara merely nodded, unconsciously twirling the now nearly empty cup.

"How are you doing?" Catherine felt silly for asking but also a little desperate to get Sara to talk to her.

Sara shrugged, "Ok, I guess," She looked up into Catherine's eyes, "I'm sorry. You shouldn't have to worry about me."


Sara interrupted her, "I feel like I owe you an explanation." Distracted by that look of deep compassion in Catherine's eyes, she trailed off. Fighting the urge to crawl back into Catherine's arms, she looked back at her own hands willing them to stop shaking. How was she ever going to make it now that she knew what it felt like to fall asleep being held by Catherine?

"You don't owe me anything, Sara." Stilling Sara's nervous fingers with her own, Catherine softly promised, "It's all up to you. You don't have to tell me anything you're not comfortable sharing with. Just wanted you to know I'd be there for you."

"Why?" The words came out before Sara could stop them.

"Because you'd be there for me." Catherine answered not doubting it for a second.

Nodding, Sara whispered, "I'm glad you know that." Smiling slightly she looked at the soft hand still holding her own, noticing happily Catherine hadn't moved her hand away even when Nick and Warrick stepped inside the break room.

"Hey, you're both here." Nick sounded cheerful as always, getting their immediate attention. He leaned against the wall saying, "Cath, Doc's report on Jane Doe is waiting for you. It explains how she died but still no clues who she was."

"Thanks for covering for me earlier." Catherine smiled at him.

"No problem." Flashing both women with one of his dazzling smiles, he walked over to the fridge. Warrick looked a bit uncomfortable but still kept trying to make an eye contact with Catherine. When it didn't work he tried focusing on Sara's face, which was hard to do once he noticed their joined hands.

Grissom walked inside, oblivious to anything being out of the ordinary, "Nick, Warrick, B/E. Sara… Brass just called, he'll be here in five. We'll meet in my office, I'll page you when he gets there. Catherine, you're still working on Jane Doe? Right. Let's get some work done."

The guys disappeared quickly and Catherine gently squeezed Sara's fingers for a moment. "Hang in there." She whispered before leaving, avoiding eye contact with Grissom.

Realizing she'll be forced to talk to Grissom unless she found a reason to leave too, Sara quickly said, "I'll be in the A/V lab. Never got around to check that surveillance tape."

Grissom just nodded, following Sara with his eyes. He wished he knew what to say to her but could only hope Sara would come to him if she needed him. He sighed sadly and went to his office.

Turning off the computer Sara yawned and stretched. It was time to go home, the shift was ending in a half an hour and she had already maxed out on overtime. She didn't think anyone would mind if she left a little early. Grissom hadn't allowed her to go out in the field; he kept coming up with all kinds of excuses all night long just to keep her around the lab. She ended up stuck in front of the screen, cursing silently for the entire shift. Brass still had no news for them, Robert Black could not be found and neither could Mark Kiner for that matter. Ladder for some reason wouldn't tell Brass how he managed to get a hold of the gun and basically they had nothing.

All in all it had been a slow night so Sara actually managed to get all her paperwork done, all the while praying for some real action. Not that she was hoping more crimes would be committed just so she could get busy trying to solve them, but it also seemed no one needed her help today. Greg shooed her out of his lab, there were no cars to pull apart, Nick and Warrick were out most of the night and Catherine… Well, she had no idea where Catherine had been most of the time. Watching over Doc Robbins's shoulder just seemed a bit too morbid even for someone who used to work in the morgue so Sara finally had to give up. She was desperately trying to keep her mind busy with anything long enough so she wouldn't have to think about her mother lying in a hospital bed. All these years Sara had refused to let the past hold her back; once the vicious circle of violence and abuse was broken and she was able to move on, she left and never returned. She never wished any harm to come upon her mother; she just couldn't bear the thought of being near her again.

Gathering all the files in a folder and thinking she should at least take the reports to Gil before fleeing, Sara looked up after hearing familiar voices approaching the break room.

"Are we ever going to talk about it? You've been avoiding me for days, Cath."

"There's nothing to talk about." Catherine's heals clicked loudly, her quick steps showing her desire to get away as fast as possible.

"Come on, Catherine…"

"Look… it's not your fault I've misread a few things. We need to get past this and be able to act professionally again."

Sara really wasn't that fond of eavesdropping but this particular conversation she kind of didn't mind overhearing.

"Are you saying we can't even be friends anymore?" Warrick sounded dismayed.

"I don't feel very friendly right now, Warrick." Catherine stopped walking and turned to look him in the eye.

"So no matter how many times I try to tell you that I'm sorry…"

"They are just words." She interrupted abruptly.

"You'll never give me another chance, will you?"

"You know me, Warrick. I don't do second chances well."

Sara held her breath, her back to the wall, thinking she shouldn't be standing so close but unable to move away just yet.

"Is there someone else? There is, I can tell." Warrick almost sounded annoyed and Sara's eyebrows shot up in surprise. How bold was that? Did he actually think he had the right to ask her that?

"There might be. Not that it would make a difference either way."


"There's nothing let to be said." They stared into each other's eyes for a long moment, Catherine's eyes full of cold determination and Warrick only just realizing things would never be the same between them. He nodded and left quietly.

Closing her eyes and leaning on the wall she was standing next to, Sara tried composing herself. 'There might be.' Oh God, not another one! But there might be someone else… There was always someone else, never her… Catherine never noticed her. Her heart sinking, she pushed herself away from the wall and rounding the corner almost slammed into Catherine.

"Christ, Sara," Steadying Sara with her hands Catherine noticed her distress, "What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing. I didn't see you. I'm sorry." Mumbled Sara, trying to get away, make it look like she was in a hurry.

"Forget that… You look pale. Are you all right?" Catherine gently touched her shoulder, concern written over her face, but Sara flinched shying away from the touch.

"Yeah, sure. I'm just kind of in a hurry… Excuse me." Sara offered an apologetic smile and walked away not looking back.

Not understanding the sudden change in Sara's behavior Catherine contemplated going after her, but Greg had already paged her twice. She wasn't sure what to do, her curiosity was prompting her to follow but her gut was telling her they would be in for another round of fighting if she pushed too hard. She finally decided to give Sara some time and went to see if Greg managed to identify that substance Doc found around Jane Doe's mouth.

Entering his lab she found him seemingly lost in thought, weird expression on his face. When he didn't even hear her calling his name Catherine knew something was wrong.

"Greg!!" She tried louder.

"Huh? Uhm, Catherine." Shaking himself out of his musings, he smiled saying, "What took you so long?"

"What's up, Greg? You look a little lost." Catherine joked, not prepared for the question that followed his suspicious gaze.

"Sara just passed by. She seemed… upset." Greg said, than looked at Catherine, "Did you guys have another fall out or what?"

"Excuse me?"

"She only ever looks like that when she fails to find evidence or…" Seeing Catherine narrow her eyes dangerously, Greg realized it would be a good idea to shut up, "Anyway, uhm… Your Jane Doe definitely overdosed; here are the results of…"

"Finish that earlier thought, Greg. Or when?"

Dropping his eyes to the floor he mumbled unhappily, "Or when the two of you fight."

Snatching the report from his hand, Catherine turned on her heel and left without a word. Not even looking at the paper in her hands she hurried through the hallways, trying to think of where Sara could have gone. Narrowly avoiding a collision with startled Nick, she asked in passing, "Have you seen Sara?"

"I think she just clocked out. She's probably on her way out…"

Not waiting for him to finish Catherine rushed off to the locker room. Entering hastily she made an abrupt stop when she spotted Sara sitting on the floor, cradling her head in her hands. "Sara…" Approaching slowly, Catherine crouched in front of her and reached for Sara's forearms. Stroking them gently with her fingers, causing Sara's breath to hitch, she whispered softly, "What's wrong?"

Gulping, Sara mumbled, "It's just… a headache." That wasn't a complete lie, she did feel one approaching fast.

"Look at me…" Hearing Catherine's gentle plea Sara looked up. Almost losing herself in the depths of blue, she was afraid she wouldn't be able to get her voice back even if she tried. "What's going on? Talk to me, Sara." Catherine asked, holding Sara's wrists.

"Nothing's going on, Catherine." She lied, averting her eyes and pulling away from Catherine's grasp, "Why are you being so stubborn?"

"I'm being stubborn?" Catherine was trying hard not to lose her temper, Sara's pained expression being the only thing holding her back. She took a few deep breaths and continued in a hushed tone, "Why are you doing this? Why do you keep pushing me away?"

"I don't know what you want me to say, Catherine." Covering her face with her hands once more and rubbing her forehead, Sara was half expecting Catherine to get up and leave. "Look, I'm really tired and I'm sure you are too. Could we just not go into this right now?" She asked chancing a glance at Catherine, realizing a bit too late she had just admitted something was indeed wrong.

"Whatever you want." Refusing to look at Sara again, not wanting her to see just how hurt she felt, Catherine stood up and went for the door. But then almost reaching the knob she abruptly turned and went back to the still sitting brunette, "You know what, I take that back!" Pacing back and forth she continued, "Why does it have to be so hard? Why can't you let me in just a little? I actually thought we were making some progress here, you…"

"I'm scared, Catherine." Sara interrupted, taking Catherine by surprise. Staring down at Sara, she waited for an explanation but it seemed Sara wasn't about to give one.

"Scared of what?"

"Of letting you in. Letting you see me. I'm scared I'll become too comfortable around you and then something will go wrong and…" Sara's voice cracked a little and Catherine crouched back in front of her. "It always happens, you know. I open up and either scare people away or manage to mess something up along the way." She finished quietly and finally looked up, her eyes filled with unshed tears. "I'm all messed up, Catherine. I'm too much trouble. You don't want me around."

Lowering herself to the floor Catherine wrapped Sara in her arms and pulled her close. "Don't tell me what I want." She whispered leaning her head on Sara's shoulder.

"You don't know what you're getting yourself into…"

"Shut up, Sidle."

Part 13

Return to C.S.I. Fiction

Return to Main Page